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Kia expands crossover lineup with value-oriented Seltos

After months of speculation, Kia will bring the entry-level Seltos crossover to the U.S. early next year, expanding the Korean brand’s utility lineup to six.

Until it was shown Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Kia had not publicly said when or if it would come stateside.

The Seltos slots between the subcompact Soul hatchback and the compact Sportage crossover and is engineered and designed for consumers seeking a Soul-size crossover with all-wheel drive, in addition to buyers looking for a utility vehicle in the low-$20,000 range, Kia said.

The Seltos is already on sale in markets such as South Korea and India, where it has been a hit. Kia telegraphed that it was debating whether to sell the vehicle in the U.S. Analysts expected Kia to show the next-generation Optima in Los Angeles after it released a teaser photo of the sedan.

But with the U.S. market moving toward all shapes, sizes and prices for utility vehicles, the Seltos is a logical fit at the lower end of the market, where a value-packed crossover makes sense. The Seltos is bound to help Kia’s product mix; through the first 10 months of this year, 55 percent of its sales consist of cars, vs. a U.S. market in which 72 percent of deliveries are more profitable light trucks.



Kia’s corporate sibling, Hyundai, is about to sell the even smaller subcompact Venue in the U.S. at a starting price of $18,345, including shipping.

Kia said complete pricing for the Seltos will be released closer to its sale date in the first quarter of next year, but that a base LX model with awd will start below $22,000, not including shipping. Likewise, a higher-trim S model with front-wheel drive and the base motor will come in at the same price point.

The Seltos is notably bigger than the Venue and even larger than the subcompact Hyundai Kona, which starts at $21,195, including shipping. Kia did not classify the Seltos either as a subcompact or a compact, but rather as an “entry SUV.” While relatively roomy up front, the rear seat is tight for taller passengers, but does have a reclining feature.

The Seltos comes with extensive standard features, and can be loaded up on the higher trims with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 10.25-inch infotainment screen, and advanced safety systems that include a blind-spot monitor that can apply the brakes and return the vehicle to its lane in certain circumstances, Kia said.

The Seltos starts with a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that makes 146 hp and is mated to a continuously variable transmission. The optional turbocharged engine makes 175 hp and uses a dual-clutch automatic, Kia said.

The Seltos has 7.2 inches of ground clearance and an upright design to make it look like a traditional SUV. Kia likened it to a smaller version of its Telluride three-row crossover that went on sale this year and has gotten off to a strong sales start.

The Seltos with awd features a center-locking differential to split power evenly front and back, along with torque-vectoring to enhance stability both in wet and dry conditions, the company said.

Kia also presented two Seltos concepts: the “X-Line trail attack” and the “X-Line urban concept,” which are loaded with aftermarket accessories.

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